I’m excited thrilled to share with you the first chapter of my latest book, God’s Best During Your Worst (Bold Vision Books), launching March 12th. Watch for it! Grab a copy and let’s talk about it!
Moment of Truth
Journal entry: Saturday, April 2, 2011, 2:30 a.m.
I arrived at the hospital last night by ambulance. The waiting areas were crazy-busy with people everywhere. Gurneys and wheelchairs lined the hallways—each holding patients with a variety of ailments.
Wish they could change emergency room smells. They are always the same: a mixture of antiseptics, urine, and vomit.
See you upstairs honey,” I called over my shoulder as I headed to bed. “And don’t forget to set up the bikes.” Deciding to marry again after so many years of being single was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. Lew brought balance to my life. His motto: work hard, but remember to play.
Our Friday dinner-out ritual gave us the opportunity to talk and laugh. We usually chose a secluded restaurant booth. There, we’d shake off the tensions of the week, his as a business analyst and mine an executive assistant to a college vice president. Our goal was to pull our focus forward.
The weather report offered the promise of perfect weather—no rain in sight—for a bike ride the next morning, so a good night’s sleep was a priority. Under the covers, I snuggled into the pillows, smooshing the fluff of the down into a just-right position. Lew lagged behind to check on our pets, set out our bikes, and lock the doors.
God had blessed me with a wonderful life. A perfect life. As I waited for my husband and held the edge of my pillow, I realized my right hand clung tight. It wouldn’t let go—couldn’t let go.
This is odd.
Stretched out on my side, I squinted in the dim light at my hand. I saw my fingers curled, clenching the feathery pillow in a death grip.
What a whopper of a cramp.
I skootched onto my left elbow. With my free hand, I tried to pry my right fingers open. They would not release. Even as I tugged, there was no pain from my clenched hold, but loosening its grasp proved to be impossible.
After several moments, I gave a yank and jerked the pillow out of my grip. That’s when my hand began moving on its own, slowly twisting outward. Moments later, my arm began to bend, first at the wrist then contorting, rotating away from my body.
A pitiful wisp of air escaped my lips in a pathetic attempt to scream. Excruciating pain seared through me. Still my arm twisted, spastic and palsied. Terrified, I thought I would soon hear bones snap. Nothing relieved my pain or the contortions.
What’s wrong with me? Am I having a stroke? Am I going to die? Is God bringing me home?
Sounds of Lew’s steps tapped on the hallway floor outside our room. The instant he walked in, I made eye contact and silently pleaded for help. Shock registered on his face. He rushed to my side and tried to open my grip and straighten my arm.
“Call 9-1-1,” I gasped a rough, airy noise.
The words had barely escaped my lips when my entire body began flailing, resembling a toy controlled by some insane puppeteer.
After Lew made a quick call to 9-1-1, he knelt at my side, watching and waiting for the seizure to pass. After what felt like an eternity, the twitching and thrashing waned. My arm relaxed. My breathing became less labored. Lew carefully pulled me close. We held each other, willing our fear away.
Reflections of flashing ambulance lights glowed through the window and pulsated against the bedroom wall.
I’ll be fine now. Help is here.
When the EMTs entered the bedroom, they immediately checked my vitals.
“Your pulse and heart rate are racing a bit, Mrs. Luftig, but that’s to be expected,” one of them said offhandedly. “Your body is reacting to trauma.” Neither of the medical team appeared alarmed, so I began to relax.
Slowly, I regained my voice. The EMTs and I maintained a strained level of small talk while they continued their examination. They wrapped a blood pressure cuff on my right arm, noted a higher than normal elevation in my blood pressure, and attributed it to my body’s response to the trauma.
Once the EMT removed the cuff, however, my arm dropped onto the bed. Instantly their demeanor changed. Chatter stopped. They began working in double-time. One of them snatched the sheets off me and reached for my legs.
“Can you wiggle your toes?” he asked. My left foot responded, but my right foot remained motionless.
“Move your right leg, Mrs. Luftig.”
Again, no response.
A deep dread washed over me. “I don’t understand.” Strangers stood in my bedroom, but I had little time or inclination to concern myself with clothes draped over the chair or other housekeeping faux pas. This was all business.
“Grasp my hands; use both of them. Reach for me.”
My left fingers reached effortlessly toward him, but my right arm and hand remained motionless.
I willed my arm to move. I tried to wiggle my fingers—the fingers that had just moments ago resembled curled talons—even tried to move my legs and wriggle my toes, but the right side of my body refused to cooperate.
Realization hit hard—my right side was paralyzed.
The EMTs wasted no time. They expertly moved me onto the gurney and rushed me to the ambulance.
As I entered the hospital, an ER nurse assigned me to a private curtained room, where Lew and I attempted to comfort each other. To make sense of the paralysis and seizure.
“Good evening, Mrs. Luftig,” Dr. Rupen Modi said as he threw back the curtain, entering my room. “What brings you here today?” His kind demeanor calmed me, and I immediately felt at peace.
This man will find out what’s wrong. I’ll be just fine.
After Dr. Modi’s initial evaluation of my symptoms and multiple questions, he shared his conclusion.
“Seems you’ve suffered a mini-stroke. People have them more times than you think,” he said. “It may be something you’ll learn to deal with.”
It was as if all the air left the room. The thought of never knowing when I could experience the same loss of control stole my breath.
“I don’t know what I just experienced,” I said through tears, “but there’s no way I can learn to live with that. There has to be a reason for what happened!”
Moment of Truth
Dr. Modi ordered an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and I willed myself to relax. We waited for the results.
By 4 a.m. I had regained control on my right side, with only a veiled numbness lingering on my right-hand fingertips.
Even with the intruding lights and hectic noises from the nurses’ station outside our curtained hideout, Lew and I dozed as we awaited the end to this nightmare.
We roused when Dr. Modi returned to my room, ashen-faced, eyes focused on the floor, not looking to either Lew or me. He walked to the right side of my bed and placed two pieces of paper face down beside me. He then lifted his gaze to meet mine.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Luftig,” he said in a soft voice as he reached for my hand, stroking the top of it ever so gently, “You have a tumor on your brain.”
“The tests show you experienced a massive seizure. Right now, we’re quite sure the tumor caused it—”
“You did not suffer a mini-stroke as we first thought—”
I have a tumor?
“It’s much more serious. The tumor on your brain is about the size of a man’s fist—”
A brain tumor?
“We’ll schedule you with a neurosurgeon later today—”
I can’t have a brain tumor.
“My colleagues and I are relatively confident the surgeon will order more tests, but my guess is you’ll need surgery within a week or two. This is not my area of expertise—I’m an emergency medicine doctor.” He raked his hair with his fingers. “And I don’t know neurology’s surgical schedule.” He picked up the pictures and stared at them. “But I know this much. You must remove that tumor before it causes any more damage. Don’t hold me to it, but you’re probably looking at surgery in ten days.”
Ten days? You can’t be serious. Is this a joke?
Lew and I stared at each other, then turned back to the doctor.
“What are you saying? I can’t have a tumor on my brain. There must be some mistake. I’ve been fine.” I willed my declaration to make it so.
With that, Dr. Modi picked the two papers from the bed and handed them to me. They were two black-and-white MRI scanned images. From the side and back views, the bones of my skull glowed white against the black film. I easily located the dark areas of my eye socket and sinus cavity. Behind them sat the folds and wrinkles of my brain.
Then I spotted it.
Amidst the brain matter, a light gray mass more than twice the size of my eye socket was adhered to my skull. Studying the second image—a posterior view of my skull—I realized the tumor filled approximately a quarter of the area meant for my brain.
I began to cry.
Lew, who had been sitting in a chair on my left, rose and gently pulled the two pictures from me. He wrapped his fingers around mine, comforting me the best he could. From his expression, I knew he could not comprehend the news that had just assaulted us.
“Mrs. Luftig, can I get the hospital chaplain for you? A priest or maybe a pastor?”
Priest? Pastor? I don’t need them, I need …
“Dr. Modi,” I said. “Are you a man of faith?”
The expression on his face changed from serious concern to peaceful reflection.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I am,” he said smiling. “I called out to God a few months past. He was there, waiting for me.” The doctor paused, as if remembering an earlier time.
He continued, “I know God well. That’s why I asked if you’d prefer to share this news and pray with someone.”
“Please, Dr. Modi, I’m not interested in finding a priest or hospital chaplain to pray with me. I want you to pray for me.”
That was odd.
Here I lay in a hospital bed, facing the greatest fear I had ever known, and I asked the doctor, a man I’d met only a few hours earlier, to pray for me.
A profound sense of peace washed over my tiny, curtained ER room. With Lew and Dr. Modi on opposite sides of my bed, we reached out a free hand to one another. Uncertainty loomed. Yet an unmistakable, almost palpable, presence of God pressed in.
“Dear heavenly Father,” I whispered. “Thank You for being the God above all gods. Thank You for the blessings You have bestowed on me today. I know the stars hang in the heavens because You put them there. You make the sun rise in the East. Your Word tells me that You knew me before I took form in my mother’s bell and even know the hairs on my head.”
Pausing, I took a breath and continued with timid confidence.
“Father, I know this tumor is no surprise to You. I know You have been aware of the day, hour, and moment I would have my seizure. I know You were even there in my bedroom when I thought I was dying.”
Tears streamed my cheeks, yet I continued.
“I know what I know, Lord, but I have to say I’ve never been this afraid before. Have You forgotten me? Please help me.” I squeezed Lew’s hand. “Father, I’m afraid and confused. Please stay close. Amen.”
After moments of silence and with a raspy voice, thick from holding back tears, Lew prayed.
“Heavenly Father, we love and honor You. Please, give me back my wife.”
All he had was this one bold prayer. Yet in his shock, he still honored God.
“Dear God,” Dr. Modi offered his part of our group prayer with a quiet voice. “Thank You for Your provisions that fill our day. I pray You bless Robin. Help her trust You through this process and after. Amen.”
We let go of one another’s grasp. I became cognizant of the voices and clamoring noises beyond the curtain. I could feel the sweet presence of God in the still air around us. A profound serenity washed over me. That’s when I heard four words from deep in my heart. Words I had heard weeks earlier.
Do you trust Me?
In a flash, I recalled the moment in the car weeks earlier when I’d heard God speak those words.
Now, I may only have ten days until surgery … less than two weeks to accomplish everything I hoped to accomplish, experience everything I yearned to experience, and say everything I wanted to say to those who needed to hear from me.
Though Dr. Modi deferred the responsibility of giving me a more in-depth assessment of my condition to the neurosurgeon, it was glaringly obvious he didn’t say I’d be just fine. He gave no guarantee I would make it through surgery, let alone have a life beyond it. And if I did survive the surgery, there were no promises of what type of life I would lead.
Lew leaned over the padded bedrail to give me a kiss. His breath smelled of stale coffee. I must have been a bit pungent myself. Fear and adrenaline coated my skin. My tongue tried to wet my parched mouth. I had to be satisfied with ice chips. I don’t even have the luxury of smelling of stale coffee.
It didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered. I may die soon. I took in a deep breath and tried to focus.
In those early morning hours, my mind raced, seeking out the promises of God’s trustworthiness. One thought stood front and center: Do you trust Me?
Memories of rich experiences throughout my life faded. This was the motherlode—my moment of truth.
I may only have ten days to live, and I needed to know if I believed God was trustworthy. Was my faith strong enough? Could I believe that His umbrella of protection would be enough to keep me safe from life’s tragedies? From death? From being less than I was?
It’s Just You and Me Now
Tragedy comes in many shapes and sizes. It can come in an instant or seep into your life like a slow, constant drip. Without warning, that drip turns to a tsunami, destroying everything in its path.
In the space at the end of this chapter, write about what happened to you. Get it on paper. If you need extra space, find more sheets and fold them in between these pages. Hold nothing back.
Fearful about being honest? Don’t be. If necessary, hide this book from onlookers. If you seek God’s best during your worst, you must express your worst situation in all its details. Secrets don’t keep you safe, they keep you in bondage. Risk it. Trust that God is waiting with an umbrella to protect you from the elements you are experiencing.
Don’t be polite or sugarcoat your words. Your worst—the tragedies that control a portion of your world—deserve an honest stare-down.
Take all the time you need. I’ll wait.
I’d love to hear from you … I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. You can find God’s Best During Your Worst on Amazon.